may mills, sheet music, may mills chestnut trees, ruth lackey, katherine bartlett, old mission gazette, old mission peninsula store, old mission peninsula, old mission, old mission michigan, peninsula township, old mission history
May Mills Sheet Music | Jane Boursaw Photo

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may mills, sheet music, may mills chestnut trees, ruth lackey, katherine bartlett, old mission gazette, old mission peninsula store, old mission peninsula, old mission, old mission michigan, peninsula township, old mission history
Mary Johnson plays music from May Mills collection at Old Mission Women’s Club, March 1962 | Traverse City Record-Eagle

When I cleaned out my parents’ house a couple of years ago, I found a big stack of sheet music that May Mills had given to mom over the years.

I don’t remember much about Mrs. Mills – she died in 1960, the year I was born – but talking to people and reading about her in the Traverse City Record-Eagle archives, it’s clear she was a big part of the Old Mission Peninsula.

While searching through Record-Eagle archives, I came across a clipping from March 1962 about the Old Mission Women’s Club, which notes:

“Mrs. Jerry Mikesell, program chairman, presented a musical program with the junior choir of the Ogdensburg Methodist Church singing several numbers under the direction of Mrs. Bruce Hooper. Mrs. Walter Johnson (my mom) gave a piano solo, after which she accompanied the group in community singing of old familiar songs, with music from the library of a Peninsula pioneer, Mrs. May Mills.”

I don’t know if the sheet music pictured above, Carolina Moon, was the piano solo mom played, but it’s certainly possible. I’m also curious who Waunetta Nelson is – the other name that May wrote on the sheet music. I think it’s Waunetta…?

Here are some other tidbits I learned about May (Golden) Mills in the Record-Eagle archives:

She had a sister, Mrs. Katherine (Antoine) Bartlett, who lived in Northport, and another sister, Mrs. Francis Lardie.

may mills, sheet music, may mills chestnut trees, ruth lackey, katherine bartlett, old mission gazette, old mission peninsula store, old mission peninsula, old mission, old mission michigan, peninsula township, old mission history
May Mills’ Chestnut Trees Honored | Traverse City Record-Eagle Archives, 1973

She lived in a house on Smokey Hollow Road about a quarter mile south of Ladd Road, and her place was known for its gorgeous flowers and abundant chestnut trees. In fact, at one time, her property had one of Michigan’s largest chestnut trees, so designated by a plaque from the Michigan Botanical Society. (I don’t know if the tree and/or plaque is still there, but will check the next time I go by.)

She had a daughter, Mrs. Ruth (Robert) Lackey, who lived in Detroit. May spent winters in Detroit with her daughter and family.

In September 1952, May’s home was struck by lightning, damaging her telephone, clock and radio.

In October 1954, the Traverse City Record-Eagle reports that May was “honored at an un-birthday party at the home of Mrs. Roy Holmes. It was a regular meeting of the Old Mission Ladies’ Aid, and the party theme came as a big surprise to Mrs. Mills. Mrs. Marshall Pratt read an appropriate poem and presented a gift from the Aid to the guest of honor.”

On Wednesday, May 23, 1945, May Mills entertained with a program of old music at the Old Mission Ladies’ Aid Society of the Congregational Church at the home of Mrs. Ella Porter.

May Mills died on Oct. 4, 1960, at Grand Traverse Medical Care Facility following a prolonged illness. She was 94. Funeral services were held at Old Mission Congregational Church on Friday, Oct. 7, 1960, with Dr. Howard Towne officiated. Burial was made in the family lot at Ogdensburg cemetery.

She was born on Feb. 26, 1866, on the Old Mission Peninsula, the daughter of Winsor and Hannah Golden. She lived her entire life on the Peninsula and married John Mills in 1884. He preceded her in death in 1929.

Mrs. Mills was very active in church work and was the organist at Old Mission Congregational Church for many years. She won many blue ribbons at the local fair with her cooking, canning and displays of fruit from the orchard.

At the time of her death, she left a daughter, Mrs. Ruth Lackey of Detroit; two granddaughters, Mrs. Margaret Thompson of Miami, Florida, and Mrs. Elizabeth Temple of Detroit; two grandsons, John Lackey and Robert Lackey, both of Detroit; and four great-grandchildren.

Did you know Mrs. Mills? Share thoughts in the comments section below. (I’ve also heard through the grapevine that if you saw her driving down the road, you knew to give her plenty of leeway.)

Her home is long gone, but there are still a couple of out-buildings there. Here’s a photo I took of May’s place last summer.

Click here to buy this photo in various forms at our online Old Mission Peninsula Store.

may mills, sheet music, may mills chestnut trees, ruth lackey, katherine bartlett, old mission gazette, old mission peninsula store, old mission peninsula, old mission, old mission michigan, peninsula township, old mission history
May Mills’ Place on Smokey Hollow Road | Jane Boursaw Photo

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3 COMMENTS

    • Very cool, Jenni! Thank you for sharing your OMP lineage and history. I think my mom used to do “watch” time at the Golden Tower, but need to rifle through some family archives and look for more info. I’ve got a great photo of it here that I’ll write a story around.

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